As we reported Tuesday, The Believer magazine has new owners: A sex toy review website called “The Sex Toy Collective,” a subsidiary of the digital marketing firm, Paradise Media. The five-time National Magazine award finalist — an offshoot of McSweeney’s that was later acquired by the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada Las Vegas — was put up for sale last fall, after the latter announced that they planned to cut its funding.
The magazine’s new owner became public after the Sex Toy Collective responded on Twitter to a post wondering why the magazine’s website had published an article called “25 Best Hookup Sites for Flings, New Trysts, and Casual Dating.” They claimed they wanted to keep the site alive by backfilling SEO content (click-bait articles designed to capture traffic from common Google searches), without disturbing the magazine’s homepage and archives. Then the Black Mountain Institute released a press statement, confirming the sale to Paradise Media. According to their statement, the ownership transfer took place on April 1, 2022.
When Gawker first reported on the sale, the Sex Toy Collective had not immediately returned our request for comment. But the administrator of the Collective’s Twitter account — Paradise Media CEO Ian Moe — responded to us late last night. He claimed that the Believer purchase had, in fact, been born out of sincere admiration for the magazine: “I really just want what’s best for the Magazine as I read it a lot in college and a big fan,” Moe said. “I was lucky enough to be able to be in a position to afford purchasing it.”
While it may have been “a mistake to reach out via our sex toy website,” Moe explained, he didn’t have any other Twitter presence. He had wanted to clarify that the hookup article was not intended as spam, but as a strategy to “make money using google (not readers) as a first step towards getting things back to print.” Moe said he got the idea from the profit model at other newsrooms, like the alt-weekly, The Chicago Reader, which uses “hookup articles and google to make $50,000 a month to boost editorial budget.” For example, here is a nearly identical SEO piece on the Reader, titled “16 Best Hookup Sites and Apps for Adult Dating To Try Free in 2022.”
In any case, Moe seems to have heard the criticism of his approach. Here’s what he wrote to us:
Now I’m seeing Believer readers really arent [sic] comfortable with the commercial affiliate SEO review content so I’m going to be making a hard switch to try more mellow display ad content like http://thoughtco.com. I just need to have it make enough money to make the payroll and printing fees, but I want to reinvest all the earnings back into it.
He removed the hookup article — the URL now populates to a page titled “Plan for Bringing The Believer Back.” It lays out a plan to remove the magazine’s paywall and offer all archival content for free, as well as a new strategy for generating SEO revenue. According to the post, Moe aims to generate $5,000 a month to return the magazine print. In order to raise that, he intends to cancel “all commercial review articles,” in favor of generating revenue from display ads — which he promises will not appear on “interviews, book reviews, and other editorial content.” In lieu of hookup-style pieces, the site will game traffic with “informational SEO content.”
Moe seems fairly transparent about what that content will be. For example, he includes a long list of suggested SEO topics. Here is just a sampling:
- republic vs democracy
- socialism vs capitalism
- persuasive speech topics
- figure of speech
- maslow’s hierarchy of needs
- past participle
- mood ring color meanings
- homogeneous mixture example
- passive voice examples
- how many zeros in a billion
- biggest spider in the world
- largest continent
- example of past tense
- presidents on money
- homonyms examples
- what is non verbal communication
- difference between metal and non metal
- yin yang symbol
- name an element
- what is communication
- wise quotes
- types of clouds
He also links to a lengthy spreadsheet, filled with sample articles on those topics, alongside traffic predictions, the top keywords, and the volume of searches for those keywords. Moe is also open to reader feedback, noting:
Please comment below or text 787-923-2792 to submit suggestions and feedback on how to reach our goal of $5000 revenue a month to bring The Believer back to print.
If anyone does submit suggestions and feedback to that number, we would love to hear about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.